Resilience – self-awareness and self-connection

In lockdown I wrote a newsletter about resilience and post traumatic growth. Recently, I find myself with further challenges to my resilience which made me think that perhaps I am not the only one who faces big challenges more than once in a short period of time.  I thought I would write about it and share my wisdom to support you to have the power to overcome, adjust, and persevere in the face of adversity.

Did you know that individuals with high levels of self-awareness and self-connection tend to be the most resilient people on the planet? We are designed to experience an array of feelings. If we choose to suppress difficult ones, it becomes harder to feel the positive ones. People are not born with high levels of resilience. It is something they earn through practice and consistency.

Resiliency has been defined as:

  • Always performing your best
  • Standing strong when life throws challenges your way
  • Having the ability to move forward
  • Not breaking down or appearing weak
  • The strength to cope with various obstacles simultaneously

Most people seem to associate resilience with consistently pushing forward, coping without emotionally breaking down, and succeeding time and time again. All qualities, though, that by definition seem to be more associated with stamina rather than resilience.

Stamina is generally associated with sustaining physical exertion within a known block of time. For example, having the energy to finish a marathon with the same intensity and strength. Sports and physical competitions are scheduled and the duration or goal is common knowledge to those participating. There is training involved and time allotted for rest and recovery.

Events or experiences that require resilience tend to occur without warning, lack a structured format, and can be highly unpredictable. Typically there are no known timeframes or clues to inform you about what may happen next. Of course, the most recent example being the pandemic and how it continues to impact us socially, academically, politically, and economically. It has been a long, intense journey, but also one that has provided unique opportunities to pause, reflect, and rearrange priorities.

So, how do some people remain hopeful and creatively adapt, push forward and live through life’s hardships and consistently access their resilience and avoid stagnation?

Genetic factors can play a small role in one’s level of resilience, but overall it is something that is learned and acquired through action and perception. Life is not a sprint, but rather a marathon through valleys, mountains, sunshine, and rain. Building resilience consists of several steps. Ones that require time to reflect, acknowledge, adjust, and restore. We can persevere through difficult times and uncomfortable obstacles. The necessary tools are already something we possess. They may just need to be activated or nurtured.

Every time you challenge yourself and live with an open mind and open heart, you are increasing your repetitions and in turn, building your confidence. As humans, we are designed to experience an array of feelings. If we choose to constantly suppress or avoid the difficult ones, it becomes harder to access the extraordinary ones too.

Ways to Build Resilience

1. Accept that change is part of life

This is a challenging step for many simply because we love control, but let’s face it, we don’t have much of it. Change is inevitable and how we receive it is key. Rather than viewing change as derailing or sabotaging, try welcoming it as a challenge, an obstacle, or an opportunity. This mindset will channel strength and optimism rather than trigger feelings associated with the ‘victim’ mentality.

2. Acknowledge what you have already accomplished and navigated

Just pause for a moment and think about all of the events, experiences, and conversations you have been involved in. They are over, in the past. You survived them, pushed through. Sometimes with grace and vigour and sometimes with pure luck. It is so important to encourage ourselves, our children, and our co-workers to take positive risks and welcome the unpredictable and uncomfortable. This is what builds resilience and creates the memories to access later. The wins, the tears, the laughs, and the struggles—they all count. They are all part of your story. You are the creator and therefore have the power to ignite and utilize the strength and knowledge acquired from your past.

3. Maintain presence and perspective

Limit your distractions or at least take the time to identify what it is you need to repeatedly distract yourself from. The world is not out to get you or create havoc. Unfortunately, we tend to do a pretty good job of this to ourselves. Practice showing up as a participant and acknowledge that whatever you are presented with also comes with the opportunity to choose how you respond or react. We are all intertwined and connected. Our actions and words do matter and can positively or negatively impact others, sometimes more than we know.

4. Challenge your mind and body: keep learning and sweating

Never stop learning and connecting to your environment. Our bodies and our minds want us to thrive and be as healthy as we possibly can. They are on our team, not working against us. Our bodies and minds need to be nourished, challenged, and replenished. View anxiety, pain, restlessness, or exhaustion as opportunities to set a boundary or invite something new into your world. They are signals to make adjustments or adapt a viewpoint or behaviour.

5. Build a positive support network

The past few years have forced us to take a step back socially and perhaps re-evaluate the types of relationships or exchanges we tend to invite or engage in. What role do you typically play in relationships? Do you find yourself constantly seeking validation from others? Do you tend to feel depleted or re-energised? Aim to surround yourself with people who are active listeners and value relationships that are balanced and non-competitive.

6. Complete small tasks from start to finish

Whether you create daily checklists or schedule reminders to keep yourself focused, remember the power of the process. We build momentum and confidence every time we start something and see it through to completion. This could be as simple as making your bed or washing your face. These simple tasks demonstrate respect for yourself and your environment. The focus and the control required to finish something creates purpose and builds resilience. Perhaps try something completely new like learning another language, listening to a new genre of music, or cooking a dish from a different country every week.

7. Use a keyword, phrase, or song to refocus and reset

We all have experienced what it feels like to be overwhelmed and discouraged. It’s not easy, but try to view these feelings as opportunities to learn and reorganise. Scan your memory and think back to a time when you felt strong, empowered, peaceful, or safe. What was happening? Who was around? What was stimulating your senses? Identify what word or song resonates with these memories. This is now your “reset,” your resilience on demand. Use it as a tool to re-ignite and reconnect with the energy it once took to rise up and persevere.

8. Find the positives, practice gratitude

You are not alone if you are currently feeling stressed, depressed, exhausted, or negative. At times, finding the positives can be a challenge. It may require you to “fake it till ya make it.” Challenge yourself to smile at least 10 times a day. Of course, these smiles might not be completely genuine, but you are sparking positivity. Smiling actually activates tiny molecules to help fight off stress and even trick your brain into thinking you’re happy. Give it a try. What do you have to lose?

9. Focus on what you can control and own

Begin to identify your response patterns and the level to which you internalise. Do you tend to take ownership of other people’s feelings/actions, adjust to avoid conflict, or constantly compromise your needs for the needs of others? In order to change such tendencies, you must first learn to establish healthy boundaries. This step serves as a reminder to acknowledge your feelings and needs that tend to be overshadowed by the intense desire to please and accommodate others.

10. Maintain a healthy lifestyle: rest and restore

Prioritise the basics; set yourself up for a good night’s sleep, drink plenty of water throughout the day, be mindful of what you eat, and move your body. A healthy body and mind create a strong foundation and the resiliency it takes to move forward in life. Currently, people are working longer hours at home than they did in the office. To avoid burnout, you must schedule ample time to relax, disconnect from work, and be present with friends or family. Resilience can only be sustained when you set healthy boundaries and make the time to rejuvenate. Don’t just go through the motions. Truly live life by being deliberate and present.

Embrace the idea that you will not have always have all of the answers, know how to react, or work gracefully through an obstacle. These though are the times when extraordinary growth takes place and we have the opportunity to watch ourselves bounce back and recover.

Resilience is something you earn through practice and consistency. It requires a healthy mindset, time for reflection, and the ability to be present with your feelings.



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